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Robert Comings

American, b. 1941

Ghost Girl’s Shadow in the Dreamer’s Cave

Oil on wood panel
53 x 31.75 x 1.75 in.
Gift of George R. Wanlass

“Undaunted” is a good term to describe Robert Comings, who throughout his life has taken difficult and sometimes challenging circumstances and turned them into life-affirming events as well as fodder for his art. One of the most pivotal of these moments was Comings’s master’s degree review at San Francisco State College in 1966. His thesis project consisted of a series of rituals; his review committee responded by telling him that religion and art don’t mix. Comings says of the experience, “This made me begin thinking of my work as a religious experience, rather than as a commercial or art experience.”

Comings considers Ghost Girl’s Shadow in the Dreamer’s Cave to be the daughter of a larger work, The Four Triptychs of NFMOA. On New Year’s Eve 1983, the day he deinstalled a retrospective of his work, he had a profound dream. In response he created The Four Triptychs as both an evocation of the dream and a way for him to return to it. In being able to return, he has kept it alive and evolving.

Comings has spoken of Ghost Girl’s Shadow as having been coaxed out of this dream. This is alluded to figuratively by an armlike appendage that seems to reach out of the ether above to grasp another such appendage reaching up from below, thereby making the connection between the physical and the ethereal, the conscious world and the dream world. Serendipity and chance play a huge role in his work, and in a world where nothing is an accident, everything has meaning. He brings into focus things and connections most often not directly perceived but nevertheless operative on a symbolic level in our lives.

Bolton T. Colburn

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